Sit in one seat, and travel the world without moving an inch”, says Festival Producer Sanjoy Roy as he describes the wonder that is the Jaipur Literature Festival. Drawing some 270,000 attendees every year from around the world each January to the 1,000-year-old city of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan in India, the Jaipur Literature Festival basks in the glory of being the largest free literature festival on Earth. Touted as “greatest literary show on Earth“, it features Nobel laureates, Man Booker prize winners, debut novelists, celebrities, local authors and a mass of attendees. The festival now heads to Boulder, Colorado, with all its pomp and color.
How Boulder was chosen to be the Festival’s U.S home is a matter of sheer luck and an impassioned e-mail of a literature enthusiast.
Boulder power couple Jesse Friedman, a psychotherapist, and Jules Levinson, a professor at Naropa University, visited the festival on a whim and all it took was one visit to make those two literature enthusiasts fall in love with the “mad and buzzy mass of humanity sharing in the love of literature”. They had heard about how the festival was looking forward to a US chapter and could think of no better place than Boulder. Upon their return in Boulder, Ms. Friedman sent an e – mail to Mr. Roy and rest as they say, is history. In the words of Mr. Roy himself “Boulder had all the untouchable makings of a festival city. It’s walkable, with accessible hotels, an airport nearby, very special outdoor features, and of course the Flatirons. These are some of the qualities that draw people in and allow them to immerse themselves in the festival experience.” He was moved by how the city came to represent the energy and enthusiasm that the festival was looking for.
The people of Boulder can think of it as a conglomeration of new ideas. As described by Mr. Roy it is a place “where the ideas emanate from the authors and their writings, but over the course of the festival these conversations take on a life of their own. It’s everything – the arts, the environment, politics, mysteries, LGBTQ issues, sci-fi, philosophy, photography, dance, and music – literally anything that can be contemplated.”
When asked about the festival in Jaipur and if the US chapter would ever grow to be as big, all he had to say was “When we created the Jaipur festival we didn’t set out for it to become the world’s largest literary festival, it’s just that it did. Our goal for Boulder is to create a festival that is unique to this part of the world, and our authors reflect that.”